Passion, Energy & Love of Life

The name Sunshine Cottage alone is enough to bring a smile to your face. But stepping through the doors of Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children will shower you in happiness, especially if you cross paths with Lindsay Vasquez. She exudes an infectious, joyful energy as a third grade teacher who truly loves her job.

“I come from a family of nurturers. I know what it’s like to be a loved child, and I’ve been able to see what it’s like for children who don’t always get that,” she explains. “I just love to love children and make them feel loved. Being able to watch the kids be happy at school and be excited to learn, then see them have those ‘light bulb’ moments when everything clicks and they say, ‘Oh, I get it now,’ — I don’t care how long you teach, you still get chills.”

Deaf education was foreign to Vasquez, who was exploring a career in speech pathology. But after hearing a presentation on UTSA’s Health Science Center’s Master of Deaf Education and Hearing Science program, she was intrigued. She applied to the program but wasn’t sure she’d get in — and she wasn’t sure what she should do about applying for jobs. As she was preparing for a job fair, her fate was decided. “The day before the job fair, I got a call that I got in the program,” she says.

Vasquez, 30, holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in interdisciplinary studies from UTSA, as well as a master’s in deaf education and hearing science from UT Health San Antonio. She’s currently pursuing her listening and spoken language specialist (LSLS) certification. She was introduced to Sunshine Cottage as a graduate assistant in the school’s pre-kindergarten program. She fell in love with the school. “The camaraderie and the team are huge here. Anyone at any time is willing to help you,” she says.

A true San Antonio treasure, Sunshine Cottage has a goal of providing children who are deaf or hard of hearing the auditory and oral foundation to become independent and active participants of the hearing world. The children utilize state-of-the-art hearing technology to develop listening and spoken language to communicate naturally and effectively without the use of sign language.

Vasquez looks forward to working with her students every day. “They’re so nurtured here. They’re very outgoing and loving. They feel safe. They’re very much themselves,” she explains. “I love watching their growth. Not just the academics, not just the language, but behaviorally and socially. I love watching them grow as little people.”

As she talks about the school and the students, passionate — the word that she feels best describes her — becomes evident: “I like to think of myself as someone who really embraces the world. You have to grab life by the horns. Passionate works because I’m in love with my job, I’m in love with the people I’m surrounded by, and I love life.”

As much as Vasquez adores her job, she is quick to keep her personal and work life separate. “You have to compartmentalize because your heart is split,” she explains. “You have half of your heart here at school because it’s such an amazing job and you care so much about all of these kiddos that it’s hard to stop thinking about them when you leave, but you also owe that to your family.

“There’s always going to be more work to do, so if you choose to prioritize and stop thinking about it, you’re never going to be able to dedicate your whole self to anything else. There’s nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow,” she notes.

“When they say you work to live, not live to work, that’s so true,” she observes. “You have to love your job because otherwise, what’s the point? You work all the time. You need to enjoy it because otherwise, life is going to flash past you, and you’ll wonder where it all went.”

With a cheerful disposition and seemingly limitless energy, the born-and-bred San Antonio native considers herself an optimistic realist. “I know realistically what’s going to happen, but I like to think it could be a perfect world,” she laughs.

That positive attitude is something she feels is important — and that she works to protect, explaining, “You have to be able to rejuvenate. I feel like people undervalue emotional health. It’s all about physical health, but your mental and emotional health are just as important. If you’re not mentally and emotionally healthy, satiated and balanced, your physical health will suffer.

“You have to be able to rejuvenate,” Vasquez notes, which for her includes family time enjoying all that San Antonio and the Hill Country have to offer. “Just enjoy the moment, whether that’s going on a walk, watching a movie or reading a book.”

Paired with her positive outlook, those downtime activities also help her manage stress as well. “Everything is manageable. It’s not controllable, but it’s manageable,” she explains. “Look at the big picture, make an end game, and then plan out your steps. You can usually find a way to get to it.”

Since her initial career plan isn’t the path she ultimately followed, Vasquez offers others an example of what can happen when you follow your heart: “’Follow your heart until your head tells you otherwise’ and ‘When in doubt — or when certain — pray about it’ are the two pieces of advice I live and die by.

“If there’s something you feel you might be interested in, try it. Just dip your feet in to see if it’s something you could pursue. There is something bigger there — you just have to try it.”

“Put yourself out there. You’ll find a way to make it work.”

But if it doesn’t, that’s all right, too. “Never be scared to make changes. Maybe it’s no longer satisfying. Then it’s time to make a change. Follow your heart until your head tells you otherwise.”

By Dawn Robinette

Photography by David Teran